Monday, October 31, 2005

And just like that ...

It was just yesterday that I wrote, "So now we'll see if all those great opportunities that come my way when I'm really swamped land on my doorstep now that I have the time for them." And not three hours later I was asked by a director to be in a show that goes up in December. It's a one-act, so it would be very manageable time-wise -- enough to keep busy without being inundated. And it's with some good people I know. I just have to see the schedule. More later.

Of course, that's the ideal -- to be invited into a show without having to audition. That's another key benefit of working a lot. The more people you know, and the more people that see you perform, the more likely you are to get brought in like this. In fact, of the 11 shows I've done this year, I had to go through the traditional audition process for only 5. Of course, the fix was in with One-Eyed Cat ...

Oh well!

So The Weather Man didn't do so well at the box office this weekend. Number 6, making only $4 million. It's a real shame -- I really liked this movie. I know it's dumb to be so invested in a movie where you only had a dinky extra (okay, FEATURED extra) role, but I've been following it so long that I feel like I'm part of it.

The reviews were interesting -- they either loved it or hated it. And a couple of my friends said they didn't really care for it. I think based on the trailers, people were expecting a laugh riot, so they felt a little gyped when it turned out kind of dark and grim. It looks like the studio didn't know how to market it. It's like an indie film with a big studio budget. Oh well.

Derailed comes out November 11. We'll see how it does. And if I'm in it ...

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Time Off

So looking ahead at my mostly empty performance calender, I was thinking, "was it a bad idea to turn down the new show?" Then I realize that rehearsals would start this coming Monday and I'd be back in a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday night plus Saturday and Sunday morning grind and I know I made the right decision. This week off has been great. I had several big deadlines for work and it was a comfort to know that, if need be, I could work into the evenings. Oh, and I relaxed some, too.

If all I did was act then there'd be almost no question about taking the show. You're an actor, so you work. And actually, even though I do have a day job, that has mostly been my philosophy anyway. Somebody told me, on hearing my packed schedule, that there's something to be said for quality and, of course, I agree. Who wouldn't? But there's also a lot to be said for staying active, and in circulation. You're an actor, you should act. Yes, I've been in a few less-than-stellar shows, but I don't regret any of them. Maybe one or two. If you're a person with an open, active mind, you can almost always get something valuable out of every experience, good, bad or in-between. And I have. Even if it's learning what not to do.

So now we'll see if all those great opportunities that come my way when I'm really swamped land on my doorstep now that I have the time for them. I'm not too worried. I continue to audition. I've got another one coming up Monday that I read the play for yesterday and, if the last couple of years is a guide, I will probably have more than a dozen others before year-end.

So my two big priorities now are to catch up on other peoples' shows and to start writing. I don't know what's next. More short plays? A full-length play? A screenplay? I've got to figure that out.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

One-Eye: The Ugly Truth

A couple of last One-Eye loose ends. The question I got more than any other was, "So is that a real cat or what?"

Yes, it -- or "she" -- is real. She belongs to Gretchen and her name is Leona. Or possibly Lucy. I'm never sure, as I just call her Black Cat. Or One-Eye. Or Ol' Gross-'em-out.

And as you can see here from this authentic un-retouched photo she does indeed have only the one eye. She was found that way as a kitten. But due to my delicate sensibilities, I had the graphic designer airbrush out that gaping socket, which I can barely stand to look at in real life, let alone on thousands of postcards and posters for eternity.

In its raw form it probably would have made an even more compelling icon for the show but, what can I say, I'm a sucker for aesthetic purity. Call me Adolph. If only all of life's little imperfections could be swept away with the click of a mouse.

I love the poster. If anyone wants a fantastic graphic artist, let me know -- Jason Adams is the best, and I can get you his contact info.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Do I look like this guy?

I hope so. He's the actor that I auditioned to understudy for this afternoon at Steppenwolf. Not sure how much is based on looks, but I imagine they do seek a certain similar physical type. When they were casting for understudies for John Malkovich, I thought that would be a stretch, but hey, this guy's got funky glasses, too, right? And the guy who auditioned after me also had cool specs.

The audition went well. I think. I was super nervous beforehand but had it under control in the actual audition. The casting director said "beautiful" and "very nice" several times and something else when it was over that I didn't hear because I was busy blacking out from relief. I don't know if that's her style, to be supportive, or if she really was impressed. I've heard things like that at other auditions and not been called back. I don't know, we'll see what happens. This was without question the biggest, most important audition in my three years as an actor. I'm glad it's over. I love the play, and will definitely go see it whatever happens. The playwright, Richard Greenberg, has had several Broadway hits, including Take Me Out so, again, very cool.

Long three days. Evangeline opened, so most of Saturday and a good bit of Sunday were devoted to that. Plus preparing for the audition. Plus I went to see a friend's show Saturday night. Plus today I had two major work deadlines -- a speech and a marketing presentation. So a lot ...

Evangeline went well. Small houses, some rough spots, but at least I held up my end. I was prepared and I gave good performances.

So now I'm looking at an empty calendar for the week. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday off from performing. It feels like ... a gift. But I'm sure by next week it will feel like a curse. I turned down a project that would start up in a couple of weeks and I think it was the right decision. Eleven shows in 10 months is plenty. And I've got another audition next Monday that I have to read the play for.

Now then, where did I put that life I had?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Evangeline


We're "papering the house" for Evangeline today. Which means free tix for industry folk. Opening weekend is tough for a lot of shows -- reviews haven't appeared yet so there's not a lot of marketing momentum going at the start. I'd like to get some people out but I think I called in every last favor for One-Eyed Cat. I let everyone know about it, but haven't done any arm twisting/head bashing.

I do hope people come out. It really is a beautiful story. I hope we do it justice. Lines like "Meanwhile apart, in the twilight gloom of a window's embrasure, sat the lovers, whispering together, beholding the moon rise over the pallid sea and the silvery mist of the meadows." That Longfellow fellow's no hack.

In one sense, the fact that it's mostly verse makes it difficult to memorize. On the other hand, though, the meter gives you a clue when you have the lines not quite right -- you sense that a word is missing or that maybe that modifier goes after the subject instead of before.

I've never performed so early in the day -- 1pm. Usually I have the whole day to do a final working and re-working (and re-working, etc.) of the lines. We're meeting at 10 to do a run-through/final dress, but I'm going to need to do some more practicing of my own in the shower. I'm feeling just a tad less prepared than I'd like. But everything will be fine -- it always is.

Friday, October 21, 2005

At the movies

I went to the premiere last night of The Weather Man and it was very cool. I'm on screen longer than the little clip on the website -- a good, I don't know, 4-5 seconds or something -- and it was a really interesting feeling. Hard to describe. Kind of a rush -- funny, embarassing, weird.

What was even more interesting was seeing how they turned that long, grueling day into a really funny, effective scene. And then how that fit into the larger film, which is really, really good. A nicely written, offbeat script and beautifully shot. The producers were talking about how good Chicago looks in the movie, about the city being one of the stars of the film, and they're right. I don't recall another movie that showcases Chicago as beautifully as this one does. It was written by a Chicagoan, so it kinda figures, but Gore Verbinski did such an amazing job of evoking a mood with the camera shots and the pacing and the color palette and the music. Definitely a movie worth seeing.

And, of course, I fully recognize that any monkey can be cast as an extra. The woman up there playing my wife isn't even an actor. But I like to think it takes a particularly attractive monkey to be picked for some key background scenes with the stars of the film.

Merde! As the credits were rolling last night I realized I've been spelling Nicolas Cage's name wrong. No "h!" Oops.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A really good day

Rehearsal for Evangeline went great tonight. For most of this process I've felt so behind, like I was treading water and struggling to keep up with everyone. Being caught up with One-Eye, I had to miss a number of rehearsals, and I didn't get to my lines until late. So until the last couple of rehearsals, I was struggling just to remember my lines and my blocking and keep track of the costumes and props and all that, so, of course, with all that going on it's almost impossible to actually act. But it's really come together, and this is the really, really fun part of putting on a show -- when you're relaxed and trying new things and experimenting and truly connecting with the material and the other actors. It's the best.

This afternoon I finally got over to Steppenwolf to read the play for next week's audition. It was so cool -- the scripts have the playwright's edits and markings all over, since, I guess, he's still working with it. It was such a great moment -- at one point I looked up and saw the pictures of Gary Sinise and John Mahoney and all the others who I should know by sight but don't and it was really ... inspirational. I don't know, it's been three years and still I take none of this for granted. Some people are so casual -- or they talk so casually -- about their work. "Oh, I just threw this script together" or "I showed up at the audition and looked at the script for the first time," etc. I don't want it ever to be like that.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

248 served

That was our total audience for the five-show run of One-Eye. A very respectable number for that venue and the type of show it was.

The check came in from Second City and it's really interesting how the dollars work out. The way things are calculated for this particular time slot, Second City gets the first $175, then 50% of every ticket after that. So when you have a relatively small house, like opening night, with 34 people, well, you make almost no money at all after Second City gets its cut. But when you get 55-60 like we did for three shows, it works out pretty nicely. (I should add that Second City gives you a ton in return for their cut -- rehearsal space, tech director, box office, house manager, etc. -- all very worth it. Plus they charge no money up-front for rent.)

So all together, I basically covered my marketing expenses. I confess to spending too much on marketing. I get professional design and printing of the kind you'd typically see for a show with a longer run or at a bigger venue. But to me it's like that old workplace saying, "Dress for who you want to be, not for who you are." Hmm, yeah, that is indeed a very OLD saying. Anyway, I just wanted marketing materials that reflected the quality of the show.


So now I need to pay the director and sound designer, which will mostly come out of my own pocket. As Rob, says, "We're not doing this for the money." Still, aside from the obvious practical benefits of money (it helps us eat, etc.), it also has an important symbolic value. It's an expression of worth. Or something. I don't know, but these people are professionals and they should be paid accordingly.

So One-Eye's a wrap. I've got the plays online here so you can either see what you missed or relive your favorite moments! I might submit them for production in other venues, either together or separately, not sure.

So with that, this journal, or blog, now has a new name and look. I will continue to write here about my experiences in performing, for as long as it's of interest to me and others. And now I have to get to rehearsal. Yesterday we were there for 9 hours. Oy.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

On work

It's weird to go around town without posters and postcards and tape and pushpins. For something like 8 weeks I was so hyper-attuned to every bulletin board, store window and shelf space that could carry One-Eye swag -- like the way before a big move you're checking every alley and dumpster for clean, sturdy boxes.

Producing was difficult. Even for a little show like this. It's just this constant feeling any time you're awake, thinking, "I could be doing something more right now. And if I don't, will I pay for my indolence with an empty house Friday?" Still, it's hard to imagine entrusting the job to someone else. They would have to be really spectacular and gifted, because there's no way they'd outwork me. Outsmart me, yes, but not out-hustle. I wish I was better at shortcuts. I'm very buy-the-book, process-oriented.

I like to always have lines to work on. I record them on a little digital recorder and play them over and over, when I'm in the shower or at the gym or doing housework. In fact, I really hate showering if I don't have lines to work on. It feels like completely wasted time. If I don't have lines I'll work on monologues.

Now I'm facing the prospect of some time off. There are opportunities, yes, but do I take them? I'm not sure. I'd like there to be a balance. When I'm working my ass off I complain -- like the back-to-back commercial and industrial shoots the past two weeks. It was grueling. Now, of course, I've had no calls this week from agents so I'm wondering if my career is over.

It's really ironic that acting naturally attracts people who are terribly insecure and at the same time, every single element of the process is designed to reinforce that insecurity. How would you like to be told NO 9 times out of 10? Or 19 out of 20?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Steppenwolf

So I've been called to audition at Steppenwolf, which is really, really cool. It's for an understudy role for a mainstage production going up early next year. Just to audition there -- easily one of the 5 or 10 most storied and prestigious theatre companies in the country -- is a huge honor. But I need to read the play, which you can only do at certain hours at the theatre, since it's unpublished. I'm going over there today to pick up the sides at least.

Evangeline has taken up so much time. I'm about 90% off-book but still have a lot of work to get it down. We open in -- crap -- 9 days!

Now that One-Eye's over, I guess this journal thing will transmogrify into a regular actor's blog. Still some loose ends to tie up on the show, though -- I want to get the five plays fixed up and put on my website and registered with the Copyright Office. And I have to get the final box office figures from Second City so I can pay the director and sound designer. After that, this site will probably get a different look. Or maybe I'll just create a new one.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Addendum

I should add that I will miss the cast very much. That's the hardest part of ending a show. Well, one hard part is saying goodbye to a character you've been portraying and living with for so long. When the show goes away, the character sort of dies. Though, like people, it tends to stay with you long afterward, becoming a part of your thoughts and who you are.

But yes, the other thing is the people. Sometimes you form really strong bonds with fellow actors. You're all sharing a unique experience -- one that's often tense and grueling and exhilarating -- so that naturally draws you together. You try to stay in touch, but it's hard. Still I've managed to hold on to some friends from past shows, and that's really nice. In what other worlds do you get to make new friends at this age?

Everyone was so nice after the show, telling me that they felt privileged to be part of it. And I was saying how honored I was to have them in it! Seriously, one issue with Skybox shows is that they run just once a week. So I've got some pretty high-octane actors tying themselves up for 5-10 weeks and they get only once a week to perform, instead of three or four times.

But I do love them all. They are really wonderful -- and I heard so many good things about them from family and friends. So thank you so much, Jonathan and Hilary and Jack and Spencer and Cameron and Cat. I will always be grateful for the work and creativity and love that you put into these scripts.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Done!

Wow. What a relief. I know I should want this to go on forever, but as producer it was just a daily struggle and torment to fight and scrap and hope for every last ticket sale. We had a good house last night, about 55. I won't get the final numbers for a week or two, but I think we had 240 people over the course of the run, which is pretty good for a show of this type -- a non-traditional, non-sketch or improv comedy show.

Of that total, a good third were friends and family coming out for me. Yes, it would be nice to reach a broader audience, but that is more than offset by the fact that I am just so blown away that so many friends thought enough of me and the show to take the time to see it. I know how hard it can be to motivate and get out to see other peoples' shows. Sometimes you just don't feel like it. Especially theatre people who have been rehearsing and performing all week -- the last thing you want to do on a free night is to step inside another theatre. So it really means the world to me when people come to my shows.

And again, everybody -- friends, strangers, fellow actors -- were so generous in their praise. People love this show. And they're not just blowing smoke up my ass. They're effusive. It's a great show. I'm a damned good writer. I am a playwright.

And right now I'm going to revel for a bit in the show's success, and keep thinking positively. Though I admit all day trickling into my head are names of people who did not come to the show. People whose shows I have made a special effort to see. Friends who ... well, I know if they did something special like writing a play or singing in a band or exhibiting their art or running a marathon, I would go out of my way to see them. But I won't think about that now. I will focus instead on all the people who did make it out. There is plenty of time later to create a blacklist. Ha! Kidding. Sort of.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Moo


Actors know they're cattle. We accept that. We just don't need it thrown in our faces. "Don't sit there! The chairs are for the crew!" "Let the crew eat first!" "Don't wander far from your pen!"

The 4-day shoot turned into 3. Overall, a very odd experience. There were some major logistical snafus on Monday -- location switched, equipment not arriving, 90-degree heat -- so things were tense from the start. Normally the producers and directors make you feel really good about what you're doing, a positive atmosphere being critical to getting good results from everyone. On this shoot I had no idea where I stood. It felt like I wasn't giving them what they wanted.

So when they told me on Day 3 that they wouldn't need me for the 4th day, I was kind of surprised, but it seemed par for the course with these folks. My agent got me paid for the day anyway, so it was like a paid holiday. Still, it was weird. Though I just heard this morning from my friend who was there for Day 4 that the crew said great things about me. So who knows?

Overall, a very strange business.

Final performance of One-Eye tonight, with Dad, sister and others in the audience. Should be a great evening. I'd love a sell-out, but would be happy with the crowds we've been getting.

I guess I should have some big, momentous feelings to report at this juncture, but I don't. It's been a great run and I'm very happy, but also, there's so much going on. All of us are in the midst of other projects ramping up, so those naturally exert a pull on you psychologically, physically, emotionally. Even though you go out and there and give everything on stage, it doesn't consume you day-to-day like it did before. As they say in The Ledge, "I'm ready."

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

I almost died

And not on stage this time.

This weekend I had two whole days off and G and I went over to Michigan. Disappointed over scant wildlife sightings, other than a couple of chipmunks and one blue heron/type bird, I proclaimed, "Damnit, I want to see some wildlife, even if it means a 400-lb. deer smashing through our windshield." I say stupid stuff like that all the time and never knock wood or any other available surface. As fortune would have it, the next day we're flying up the highway at 70 mph and in broad daylight, 1pm, this deer comes out of the woods and runs straight across our path. It was a full-on brake-slamming, rubber-peeling moment. We stopped so hard the engine shut off. Thank god for my cat-like reflexes, which saved us from eating a fatal deer sandwich for lunch.

Other than that, the trip was great. Another Internet-free weekend.

Right now I'm on day 2 of a 4-day commercial shoot. It was supposed to be just 3, but they added a 4th. When I groaned, my agent said, "Hey, it's money, right?" And I was like, yeah, but I have actual work-work to do this week. So I'll be doing that at night, I guess. Plus I am woefully behind on memorizing my lines for Evangeline, so that's going to bite me in the ass Wednesday night.

One-Eye closes Friday. We should have a party, but I have about 90 minutes to plan it. Dad and others coming in this weekend for the show, too. Breathe ...

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Awesome night!

Great house last night. 55 or so, not exactly sure. Plus tons of old friends. Some who hadn't seen a show of mine since the very first ones I did three years ago, so it was great to show that, yes, I really can act! People are just so gracious in their praise for this show. The stories really resonate.

And my pal Jonald brought ANOTHER 9 people! Amazing. He rules.

And mad props to Hilary for bringing her own huge entourage!

I care too much about numbers, I suppose. But I really would like to pay our director a decent wage.

Small world story. I am doing this industrial video next week, a 4-day shoot in which I play a real estate agent. Turns out one of the days my co-star is a good friend of mine who was at the show last night. She is "young, single woman" that I show a condo to in Lincoln Park. We're going to have a blast.

I am so, so, so proud of this show. If I never do another thing, this would be accomplishment enough.